The Gu­atemalan Em­bassy’s move to Jerusalem is no sur­prise

The Jerusalem Post - - FRONTLINES - • By AVITAL LEIBOVICH The writer is di­rec­tor of AJC Jerusalem.

Just two weeks af­ter US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump an­nounced his in­ten­tions to move the Amer­i­can em­bassy to Jerusalem, Gu­atemalan Pres­i­dent Jimmy Mo­rales an­nounced that his coun­try would also move its em­bassy to the cap­i­tal, no later than two days af­ter the US move. While many Is­raelis and Jews in Is­rael and around the world were very happy with this an­nounce­ment, many also won­dered “Why Gu­atemala?” Is­rael has such warm re­la­tions with other coun­tries, like the UK, Ger­many and Canada – why sud­denly Gu­atemala, which has a rather small Jewish pop­u­la­tion of 1,000 peo­ple, is the sec­ond to take the ini­tia­tive, and not one of those coun­tries?

To be hon­est, the Gu­atemalan move shouldn’t be a sur­prise to any one of us. Pres­i­dent Mo­rales, as well as his foreign min­is­ter and 50% of the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion are Evan­gel­i­cals, and great sup­port­ers of Is­rael. In fact, from 1955 until 1980, Gu­atemala was one of the only coun­tries to main­tain an em­bassy in Jerusalem. By ex­am­in­ing the his­tory, we see the Is­raeli-Gu­atemalan friend­ship started much be­fore the es­tab­lish­ment of the Jewish state. In 1947, the UN Spe­cial Com­mit­tee on Pales­tine (UNSCOP), which in­cluded del­e­gates from 11 coun­tries, con­vened to dis­cuss the fate of the State of Is­rael. Dr. Jorje Gar­cía Grana­dos, a Gu­atemalan diplo­mat, was a mem­ber of this com­mit­tee. Dr. Grana­dos or­ga­nized a group of Latin Amer­i­can am­bas­sadors who worked to­gether and changed the bal­ance in fa­vor of the Par­ti­tion Plan (Res­o­lu­tion 181). This plan is one of the cor­ner­stones of the Zion­ist his­tory. As a re­sult, Jewish refugees could im­mi­grate to Is­rael, and ul­ti­mately, it led to the end­ing of the Bri­tish Man­date and the es­tab­lish­ment of Is­rael.

It’s also not sur­pris­ing once you ex­am­ine the so­cio-eco­nomic-se­cu­rity re­la­tions be­tween the coun­tries. Dur­ing the last decades, Is­rael and Gu­atemala co­op­er­ated in im­por­tant fields like wa­ter man­age­ment, agri­cul­ture, ed­u­ca­tion and medicine. As part of the Foreign Af­fairs Min­istry In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion Divi­sion, over 7,000 Gu­atemalan pro­fes­sion­als were trained in var­i­ous cour­ses in and by Is­rael. Since the be­gin­ning of 2018, Is­rael has been dis­cussing dif­fer­ent as­pects of the coun­try’s de­vel­op­ment with more than 20 Gu­atemalan gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

Gu­atemala has a friend­ship as­so­ci­a­tion which in­cludes no less than 45 mem­bers of its Congress, out of 158 mem­bers. As such, al­most ev­ery fourth mem­ber is a mem­ber of the Gu­atemala-Is­rael Friend­ship As­so­ci­a­tion.

“But what hap­pens in the UN?” those who doubt will ask. Well, even when look­ing at its vot­ing pat­terns in the UN, Gu­atemala doesn’t let us down. In De­cem­ber 2017, when the UN con­demned Pres­i­dent’s Trump dec­la­ra­tion rec­og­niz­ing Jerusalem as the cap­i­tal of Is­rael, seven coun­tries voted against the con­dem­na­tion. Among them – as you can imag­ine – was Gu­atemala. In 2012, at the vote on Pales­tine’s ad­mis­sion to the UN as a non-mem­ber ob­server state, 41 states ab­stained – among them, cor­rect, Gu­atemala.

Gu­atemalans in the United States make up the sixth largest group among the Latino pop­u­la­tion, some 1.3 mil­lion peo­ple. The re­la­tions be­tween the coun­tries is not aban­doned there, ei­ther. The Amer­i­can Jewish Congress, the global Jewish ad­vo­cacy and diplo­macy or­ga­ni­za­tion, helped and sup­ported im­mi­gra­tion re­forms which pro­moted im­mi­gra­tion to the US from Gu­atemala.

Re­cently, it was also re­ported that the Czech Repub­lic is ex­am­in­ing mov­ing its em­bassy to Jerusalem. This re­la­tion­ship can also be dis­cussed at length. But until this hap­pens, let’s give a lot of re­spect to Gu­atemala, which al­ways sup­ported Is­rael, even when it was less pop­u­lar, and with­out the sup­port of the leader of the largest su­per­power. Is­rael has many friends in the world, we just need to know them and ap­pre­ci­ate them more.


GU­ATEMALAN PRES­I­DENT Jimmy Mo­rales speaks at a ded­i­ca­tion cer­e­mony of the Em­bassy of Gu­atemala in Jerusalem, at the King David Ho­tel on Wed­nes­day.

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